The 2012 National Z Scale Convention wrapped up last weekend in Denver, Colorado, and I think lots of folks are now wondering… when do we get some of the Z scale goodies that were announced? Without going over every new product that the major manufacturers showed off or spoke about, I have to admit there are two items in particular that got me going: AZL’s Mikado steam locomotive and MTL’s SW1500 diesel switcher.
I think these two locomotives could increase the number of folks involved in Z scale dramatically, as they address two glaring gaps in the Z scale world. Let’s start with the Mikado, our choices for years in Z scale were Marklin’s Pacific or Mikado as far as North American steam. Both very nice models (I have several Marklin Pacifics I wouldn’t part with!) but they’ve basically remained unchanged since the 1970s. It’s 2012 and simply put, we need better moderately priced steam in Z scale. If these AZL Mikados run as well as the Tenshodo Japanese-style locomotives, I think we’ll be seeing lots of new users in Z.
I don’t know of any official stats or studies, but in model railroading I think people are strongly drawn to steam locomotives. Maybe it’s no more mysterious than seeing the side rod mechanisms come to life and move the massive driving wheels forward, maybe the appeal of steam is the part they played in history. In any case, model railroaders love steam and I think the AZL Mikado will be a big hit.
The announced MTL SW1500 diesel switcher addresses a different but no less important Z scale need, SWITCHERS! Today most Z scalers are using either AZL or MTL Geeps for switching duties. This works well but it would be nice to have a dedicated yard switcher on every layout (though the SW1500 can also operate as road switcher!).
There’s an appeal to switchers in Z scale that’s much less technical though, their size! Although we’re seeing larger and larger layouts in Z scale, many people still build small Z scale layouts. In addition, we’re also at a point when we’re seeing more talk of dedicated Z scale switching layouts. A smaller diesel would be perfect in these situations. The MTL SW1500 would be a much-needed addition.
Another thought on the MTL SW1500, and again I don’t know how this fits in to the big Z picture, but here goes. Prior to the MTL GP35 and the diesels that have followed from MTL and AZL, Marklin was the source for Z scale. It seems no matter what country or era a person modeled, they always had several Marklin 8800 steam switchers in their collections. Marklin did an amazing job of marketing these little switchers, bundling them in specialty and novelty packaging: Christmas, Easter, Halloween, beach themes, etc. People collected these little beauties like baseball cards!
Times have of course changed since the heyday of the Marklin 8800, but I think the pull to own a handful of cool little switchers will remain, maybe more so now as these new switchers will be truly at home on North American layouts.
The fun thing about what’s coming to Z scale… these are just two of the new products talked about at the 2012 Z National Z Scale Convention!